Complication Rates for the Esophageal Obturator Airway and Endotracheal Tube in the Prehospital Setting

Daniel G. Hankins, Nancy Carruthers, R. J. Frascone, Linda Ann Long, Brian C. Campion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the complication rates associated with the use of the endotracheal tube (ET) and the use of the esophageal obturator airway/ esophageal gastric tube airway (EOA/EGTA) during the treatment of patients with prehospital cardiac arrest. Methods: A descriptive, quasi-experimental study of 509 consecutive adults, cardiac arrest patients was conducted. Patients were examined prospectively for airway intervention type and complications. Some patients were examined at their final destinations (field, morgue, funeral home), while other patients were examined by EMS providers in the field when airway adjuncts were switched. Also, airways were evaluated for complications by emergency physicians at destination emergency departments. Results: The airway in use at the time of examination was the esophageal obturator airway (EOA) or esophageal gastric tube airway (EGTA) in 208 patients (40.1 %); the ET (endotracheal tube) in 232 patients (45.6 %); and an oral or nasopharyngeal airway in 47 patients (9.2%). Twenty-two patients (4.3%) had both an EOA/EGTA and an ET tube in place at the time of the examination. The survival rates were similar between the EOA/EGTA and the ET groups (28% and 32%, respectively). The complication rates overall also were similar, but the serious or potentially lethal complication rate was 3.3 times more common with the use of the EOA/EGTA than with the ET tube (8.7% versus 2.6%, respecrively). Conclusions: The complication rate for the EOA/EGTA is unacceptably high, and careful thought must be given to its continued use. Serious questions also arise concerning the complication rates associated with the use of the ET: is the complication rate of 2.5% acceptable or should other airway alternatives be considered for use in prehospital care?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-121
Number of pages5
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • advanced life support
  • airway basic life support cardiac arrest complications EMS EMS systems endotracheal intubation esophageal obturator airway esophageal gastric tube airway nasopharyngeal airway oropharyngeal airway prehospital training


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